To mark the thirtieth anniversary ot American Heritage, we asked a number of authors and scholars, including members of the Society of American Historians, to consider this question:
What is the one scene or incident in American history you would like to have witnessed—and why?
The great majority of those we asked were intrigued by the idea of being a fly on the wall at an epochal event. And the range of their answers confirms that the historical imagination is as unbounded today as it was in 1954 when our first editor, Bruce Catton, established the founding principle of the magazine: “Our beat is anything that ever happened in America.”
On the pages that follow, you’ll find a selection from among the many replies. Taken together, they turn out to be an amusing, moving, and surprisingly coherent narrative history—one that we believe fulfills C. Vann Woodward’s challenge “to summon the past into the present.”